Istanbul Governor’s Office Cancels Elections for Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey

The Istanbul Governor’s Office has cancelled elections for the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey on the grounds that the necessary conditions for the electoral process have not been met,

The Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey has been planning to carry out patriarchal elections to replace Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan, who fell ill and could no longer perform his duties since 2008.

The Patriarchate sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in which they expressed their wish to hold an election for a new patriarch. However, the Istanbul Governor’s office rejected the Patriarchate’s demands saying that Mutafyan is alive and the necessary conditions in the election process had not been met, which meant keeping Mutafyan in the position (Mutafyan has been incapacitated for almost a decade.

The letter from the Governor’s Office also did not recognize Archbishop Karekin Bekciyan’s election as the “degabah” (caretaker patriarch). Bekciyan was the Primate of the Diocese of Germany.

The move has drawn a fierce reaction from the Turkish Armenian community. The Turkish-Armenian community weekly Agos, said the letter was “historic” in terms of charting the relationship between the Armenian community and the state in an editorial published on Feb. 8. “The AK Party (Justice and Development) government has openly intervened in the traditions of the church and told them they cannot elect their own patriarch,” the article said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin met the representatives of the Turkish-Armenian community on Feb 8 to evaluate the situation. Soylu said he would discuss the community’s concerns with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yirdirim.

Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan withdrew from his position in 2008 due to a deteriorating health condition, diagnosed as fromtotemporal dementia (FTD). His seat remained vacant for two years until Archbishop Aram Atesyan was appointed as acting Patriarch in 2010. However, the Turkish-Armenians have demanded an election, expressing their unease that patriarchal elections were not held at that time. In the end, the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey announced the vacancy, which initiated the election process.

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